A ROSS-SHIRE councillor has denied her dramatic defection from the Liberal Democrats to become an Independent, only hours after being elected, was a cynical political move.
Biz Campbell quit the beleaguered party at the weekend once she had been re-elected as a Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh member of the Highland Council on Friday.
She said Lib Dems had been in the perfect position in the UK Government for two years to help her constituents, but had repeatedly failed to do so which had directly impacted on local people.
The veteran councillor, who was elected to the authority for a fourth time on the party ticket, said she had mulled over the decision for some time because of her uneasiness at the Lib Dem’s controversial role as a junior coalition partner at Westminster with the Conservatives,
She cited the removal of a coastguard tug from the Minch, the failure to devolve Crown Estate revenues to local communities and pension changes as major issues which were brought up by Ross-shire voters while she was on the campaign trail.
Councillor Campbell claimed she could not be "false" any more by representing the party.
"It had been preying on my mind for some time," said Councillor Campbell, who insisted her defection was delayed because the party only had nine per cent support nationally.
"There was no right time to do it, if I had defected prior to the election I would have been accused of trying to get votes. I might have gained some Lib Dems but I have lost a lot as well," she said.
"They are leaving the party in droves. I wanted to be free and independent without a party whip and I feel a free spirit now, I was being false and I am not a false person. I just want to do my best for my constituents."
Councillor Campbell, who has swelled the ranks of Independents to 36 seats on the local authority, insisted there had been no backlash from the party’s grassroots after she stood on a Lib Dem ticket but had received several messages of support.
She paid her own election expenses to save the party money and also accused the leadership of failing to help its councillors politically after its Highland candidates were whitewashed by the SNP in the Scottish Parliamentary elections last year.
The Lib Dems had lost six seats in the council election last Friday before Councillor Campbell’s move and there were heavy losses nationally with 80 seats gone in total, as the party’s vote collapsed.
Councillor Campbell received a phone message from Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie trying to persuade her to change her mind but to no avail. "It was the first time I had ever heard from Willie Rennie but he was too late," she said.
Highland Lib Dem depute leader David Alston refused to comment in depth on his former colleague’s defection other than to say he wished her all the best in the future and was sorry to lose her.
However, another experienced Ross-shire councillor, Dingwall and Seaforth Independent Margaret Paterson, was delighted.
"It was a big surprise because she has been a Liberal Democrat for years and worked very hard for them," she said. "A few times she had spoken about joining the Independents before. I have been friends with Biz for a long time and if I lived in that area I would be delighted because she fights for her people."
She claimed party politics did not matter in the case of Councillor Campbell because she was so popular locally.